Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has urged Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal to re-think holding board exams for Class 10 and 12 CBSE school students as the number of daily new Covid cases in the country – over 1.5 lakh were reported this morning – continues to climb.
Ms Gandhi Vadra, who is self-isolating at her Delhi home after her husband, Robert Vadra, tested positive for coronavirus, wrote to Mr Pokhriyal to underline the “fears and apprehensions… of lakhs of children and parents from all over India”, and pointed out the contradiction in warning adults against congregating in large numbers while children would have to do the same.
“… practically impossible to ensure the safety of students… it is not just the students who will be at risk but also their teachers, invigilators and family members… as state after state issues guidelines preventing the assembly of large numbers of people in public places, what moral ground can we stand on while forcing children to do exactly that…” Ms Gandhi Vadra said in her letter.
“Aside from this (the risk of the virus spreading), by forcing children to sit for these exams during a raging pandemic, the government and the CBSE board will be held responsible in the event any exam centre proves to be a (Covid) hotspot… might want to consider whether they are prepared to own legal liability for students and others who might be severely afflicted…” she wrote
“They are rightfully requesting the exams be cancelled under the prevailing circumstances,” she said.
The Congress leader isn’t the only public voice to speak out on behalf of the students.
This morning actor Sonu Sood – who in August last ear also supported deferring NEET and JEE because of the Covid pandemic – tweeted a video appeal.
“I request everyone to support students who are forced to appear for offline board exams in these tough times. With the number of cases rising to 145k a day I feel there should be an internal assessment method to promote them rather than risking so many lives,” he said.
Apart from appeals to postpone or shift the exams to an online format, Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena has also urged the centre to arrive at a “national consensus” in this matter.
Party spokesperson Arvind Sawant wrote to Mr Pokhriyal on Saturday and said: “Your intervention would mean national consensus, instead of a unilateral decision by any particular state”.
Mr Sawant’s comments suggested Maharashtra could move to defer or shift exams in its territory. The state has said it is considering the same for Maharashtra Board HSC and SSC exams.
CBSE exam dates were announced in February – Class 10 and 12 exams will begin May 4, with all exams to be held in the offline-written mode.
At that time daily Covid cases in India were fewer than 15,000.
Now daily new cases are over 100,000 per day and climbing; they’ve increased every day since April 6, and the national active caseload, which was around 1.3 in mid-February, is now over 11 lakh.
Concerns over students’ safety is all the more serious because children below 18 have not been cleared to get the vaccine; currently only people over 45 are eligible to get the shot.
On Thursday the CBSE responded to students’ worries – thousands of whom had signed petitions calling for the exams to be cancelled or held online. A senior official told news agency PTI that “adequate arrangements” were being made to ensure all students are safe from infection.
Last year, the board exams had to be postponed mid-way in March. They were later cancelled and the results were announced on the basis of an alternative assessment scheme.
reported by NDTV